F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “At five o’clock he felt the need of hearing his own voice.” That’s pretty much how it’s gone for me every day, the 26 days in April writing my A to Z posts. But, I’m not living in a communal house on the Princeton University campus, so I can’t retreat to that house like Amory Blaine in Fitzgerald’s 1920 novel This Side of Paradise to see if anyone else has arrived. I am alone, sitting in my studio at my computer. I feel the urge to pick up the phone and call someone. But I conclude that’s hopeless. No one wants to listen, no one has much to say. Few like talking on the phone these days, anyhow. They text. I don’t text; but even if I did I wouldn’t be hearing my own voice. I’d be seeing elisions and acronyms, oft misspelled, standing in for words and phrases, arriving on a tiny screen with the size typeface and images made for 18-year-old eyes, and a keypad for 3-year-old fingers.
So I climb the rickety, winding staircase, with the peeling white paint on the walls, to the cupola of my blog. Maybe Moriarty has arrived. He is the Phantom of My Blog, a low talker, a thoughtful thinker, someone I can converse with, even if he doesn’t dust.
On the way up I’m ruminating on why I chose the theme I did for 2016, “From Sea to Shining Sea,” my landscape photographs from my travels across America, pictures of places where I have lived or visited. I thought it would be quick and easy: use photos already in my computer and then say a few words. Not so. I found that for each photo in my computer, to give a true sense of place, I had to scan in more. Plus, the photos are old, 20 years or more, so I had to research each place to update my facts.
My photos are old because I spent the last decade caring for my mother, at home, who suffered from dementia. I had no time to do much else. In fact, I started my blog in 2011 to write about our journey through her dementia. Writing this story not only served as a catharsis for me, but also as information and support for others in similar circumstances. My mother died on April 11, 2012, hence this month marks the fourth anniversary of her death. She was 97. Many of the photos I used in this A to Z theme are of trips she and I took together. So, for me, this theme was a journey into a place called Nostalgia; and because the photos are old, I felt that I was seeing my whole life pass before my eyes. Often that made me sad. I was sad to see all those lost loves that I could look at, but whose voices I would never hear again. Without silence, there is no Nostalgia.
I am favored nonetheless to have had those travel experiences, to have met the enchanting and the enchanted along the way and to have traveled with the greatest companions. So I thought maybe my readers on the A to Z journey with me and from around the world might like seeing places in America they had not seen. Out of the corner of my imagination I observed that the native peoples who originally inhabited Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California made me a box out of soapstone. So, climbing upon my soapstone box I achieved my Scheherazade Chronicles mission of storytelling about sustainability of the environment, wildlife and humanity, that whole ecosystem. I did so verbally in some of my posts and in photographs in all of my posts.
As a journalist for over 35 years I am used to meeting deadlines; therefore, for that aspect, I facilely met the daily A to Z post deadlines. I took the A to Z Blogging Challenge last year for the first time and I found the writing, reading and meeting new friends exhilarating. This year I wasn’t going to take up the challenge, because I knew I didn’t have time. I was already inundated with obligations. But, I did it anyway. I found out I can’t do it all. I’d drop some quotidian pieces, forget and then have to go back and pick them up when I’d stumble over them, and affix them into their proper places in the picture puzzle on my mind table.
My mind kind of looked like this (hover your mouse over the image for further comment):
So, this 2016 A to Z series is a new journey upon which I embark and share my old journeys with you; old friends, fellow bloggers, have come with me and along the way I have met new friends with utterly fascinating thoughts and lives. I am always interested to know how others think and to hear their voices. These are the treasures I encounter on the journey from A to Z.
I watched Ken Burns’s The National Parks, which just happened to be showing on TV as I neared the culmination of my A to Z postings mostly about designated parks and landmarks, and I realized what I had done in my life, where I had been, what I had photographed and written about. I should like to continue this.
Ah, here we are at the top of the stairs. I hear a tap. I look around the cupola. Moriarty is here. He’s sitting in the light by the open window. The pale, yellowed gauze curtain undulates in the soft breeze. Moriarty is tapping his iPad. He’s reading my A to Zs.
He interrupts me. “This series is a photo essay,” he says. “And, where am I? Not one mention of me throughout, let alone a picture. It’s like I’m not here.” He is silent for a moment. A shadow of sadness passes across his eyes. And then he continues, “So, would you please post a photo of me. Your readers think I am a figment of your imagination. And, I am not. I am real. I am a genuine Phantom. And, besides, they always liked me better than you.”
So, dear reader, I give you Moriarty, The Phantom of My Blog:
May 8, 2016
Inspiration: At five o’clock he felt the need of hearing his own voice, so he retreated to his house to see if any one else had arrived. Having climbed the rickety stairs he scrutinized his room resignedly, concluding that it was hopeless to attempt any more inspired decoration than class banners and tiger pictures. There was a tap at the door.
From F. Scott Fitzgerald, This Side of Paradise, 1920. BOOK ONE:
“The Romantic Egotist”; CHAPTER 2: “Spires and Gargoyles.”